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Non-Prog CD Reviews

George Woods

Heartbeat

Review by Gary Hill

The blend of sounds on this set is pretty cool. Things range from folk rock to fusion to alternative rock and that’s not even the limit of the sonic palette on display. Blending symphonic instrumentation with folk and rock ones, this has both male and female vocals featured. The whole disc is strong, and there’s clearly enough variation here to keep it interesting throughout. This is a strong set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Overture/Rewind

Symphonic elements open this and acoustic guitar is heard after a time. There’s a real orchestral texture early that is joined by folk rock elements as the piece develops. The female vocals that soar over (along with the musical arrangement) brings an almost progressive rock feeling to the piece. Those female vocals serve more as instrumentation, making this more of an instrumental than a real song. It’s a tasty introduction to the set.

Shake My Soul

Bouncy folk rock, leaning toward alternative pop is the mode of choice on this number. It’s fairly mellow and much more subtle than the opener, but does a good job of bringing a different texture to the table.

Wasn't Enough

Soulful retro keyboards open this in style. The cut quickly grows out to the most rocking motif to this point. It’s got a classic rock meets modern alternative sound to it. There’s some pretty serious crunch later and this is another point on the disc that leans towards progressive rock. The hard rocking instrumental section with meaty guitar solo is great. There’s another short guitar solo later that’s more melodic, but every bit as tasty.

Stock in the Stars

A stark contrast to the power of the previous number, this comes in mellow and intricate. As the acoustic guitar stylings hold the piece, non-lyrical female vocals glide across. Then the track shifts out to something completely different. It’s a bouncy sort of piece that has a lot of jazz in the mix along with alternative rock and pop sounds. The tune shows yet another side to this diverse artist and has some scat singing at times. The female backing vocals later lend a soulful touch and the horn solo creates more of that jazz texture.        

Marry Me
Here we get a tune that’s even more jazz-like. There are sections that have a bit of funk in the mix and the horn section and female backing vocals add a lot to the mix. It’s got one of the catchiest choruses on the disc and is one of the best pieces here. It really ramps up later with some killer jazz and soul sounds.
Chapter 3 - The Moon

Another cut that might fall under the “progressive rock” heading, this is a symphonic number that’s very cool and very tasty. It is nearly an instrumental. There are a lot of symphonic instruments at play on this.

Running Away

This comes in mellow with some of those symphonic elements still at play, but it quickly turns into a jazzy modern pop rock sound. It’s an energetic tune with a soaring vocal line and some great musical elements. It’s one of the most accessible tunes on show, but it does have some intriguing shifts in timing and some great jazz elements.

You Are The Moon

While this is one of the most understated cuts here, it’s also one of the best. In fact, it might be my favorite tune of the whole set. It’s a slow moving, balladic number that features a duet between male and female vocals. It’s got some hints of country music along with plenty of the folk that shows up so frequently on this set. There are still some of those symphonic instruments here and this is a very emotional and stirring piece of music. This one, by itself, is worth the price of admission here.

Heartbeat

This is a mellower number (at least at first) that has a catchy kind of vocal and rhythmic vibe. It’s definitely got plenty of jazz built into it along with some singer songwriter elements. The arrangements gets more developed and involved as the tune continues. Woods puts in some of his most impassioned and powerful vocal performances here.

Trying To Get Back

The same kind of blend between singer songwriter and energized jazz sounds is featured here. The female backing vocals are among the best of the set and this really is another highlight. It’s a killer tune that has some great melody and catchy vocal performances. The interplay between male and female vocals really shines at times here and when the horns come in later to fill out the arrangement, this is just soars.

Lucky One

Bass guitar opens this, presenting a change up in style. A retro keyboard sound comes over board before it works out to a more energized modern rock pop rock sound. Gospel and jazz elements are still featured in the arrangement here.

You Are the Sun

Here is another particularly mellow tune. It starts with a motif that’s just acoustic guitar and vocals. A little before the one minute mark drums enter and then other instruments lend more layers to the arrangement. The vocals performance here is what really drives this, although the music does a good job of driving that home.

The Wedding Song

The sound of wind chimes opens in a very mellow approach. Music gradually builds up from there with a jazz element slowly coming into being. The tune is quite sedate and a bit understated. While it’s a good piece of music, I’m not sure it was the best choice for closing the set. It’s easily the weakest song here. That said, even this one is pretty strong. It just pales in comparison to the competition.

 
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